Why Diets Don't Work - Part 1 - The Yo-Yo Effect

This is Part 1 of a short series on the standard "diet programs", why they don't work, and what you can do to change your life so that "going on a diet" isn't even in your vocabulary!

It's #FoodieFriday, my friends!!  Today I would like to talk a little about "dieting."

We are bombarded with advertising in every form of media available today about losing weight and dieting, from programs with pre-packaged food to the "miracle" of 20 pounds in 30 days, and everything in between.  How do you know what is real and what is just robbing your wallet?

It's hard to piece it all together based on the information you're given by companies claiming to take off the weight.  Sure, you can lose weight in many ways.  But are you losing the right kind of weight?  And how will you keep it off once you're off the program? 

Diet programs have been the cause of yo-yo dieting for years now.  People have success with a program, only to go off the program and gain the weight right back, plus a few pounds more.  Here's a tip to help you weed out a few of the plans you might be considering: 

Watch out for severe calorie restriction diets.

When you restrict your calories eaten to an amount that is below what you use in a day, you will lose weight.  That is a very simple formula, and it is used by personal trainers and medical professionals the world over (Jillian Michaels stresses this frequently on her website!).  However, when you have the guidance of a professional like a trainer, they are making sure that you eat the right kinds of foods at the right times, and compensating for exercise you may be doing which requires more calories (from protein) to maintain (or build, depending on your goals) muscle mass.  Maintaining proper muscle to fat ratios are important in overall health and vitality.  Without guidance, it can be a daunting task to figure out what you should be eating to lose weight and still feel energized and able to tackle the rest of your life.  This why we purchase diet products and programs, hoping for the proper guidance to take off the weight and keep it off.

Some of the "miracle" diets restrict you to a very small number of calories per day.  I've seen it as low as 400 calories.  Any calorie restriction below 1200 calories a day (for the average person - this number can vary greatly!) puts the body into starvation mode.  Starvation makes the body break down muscle tissue for energy.  So yes, you are losing weight - but you are sacrificing your muscles to do it!  Muscle weighs about 2.5 times more than fat, so you can get astoundingly quick results by starving yourself, however, you are robbing your body of the muscle it needs to move you around and do the things you want to do.  And especially in women, less muscle mass will eventually be a contributing factor to diminished bone density (osteopenia, eventually osteoporosis).

So, let's say you lose 20 pounds and you've reached your goal through severe calorie restriction.  Now you return to your normal way of life of eating whatever you want.  Some time later you step on the scale, and you are now 25 pounds heavier than when you started your diet the year prior.  What happened?  Well, once the body enters starvation mode, it changes its behavior for awhile.  Any sugars that enter the body which aren't used to power the brain and muscles will be stored as fat reserves.  When you remove your calorie restriction, your body keeps storing the food you are now eating as fat for quite awhile, and suddenly you are past the weight where you started from before the diet.  This is the typical yo-yo effect.

Yes, it's frustrating. It contributes greatly to emotional issues such as lack of self-confidence and a diminished sense of self-worth.  And on top of everything else, it's just not healthy!

I'm here to tell you, it doesn't have to be this way.  There are ways to look great AND feel great, and not have to worry about the eventual downswing of the yo-yo diet - you can keep on the up-and-up with just a little food knowledge and a couple of behavioral changes - for the rest of your life!!  I will talk more about this next week on the #FoodieFriday blog!

As a side note - I will be at a Health Fair at the Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Temple Terrace, FL, Saturday, February 11 (tomorrow!) from 10-2 to meet you and discuss TCM, Acupuncture, Herbal medicine, health, wellness, nutrition, weight loss, and anything else you'd like to ask!  I'll be with my partner, Brian Lau, AP, DOM, LMT, representing Ideal Balance Center for Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine.  Won't you come join us?  Should be fun!

Questions or comments about today's blog or other topics?  I'm here to help. 

--Marissa Byrum, AP, DOM, Dipl. Ac., is an associate at Ideal Balance Center for Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine in Temple Terrace, FL.


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